“A Christ-Like Fragrance”

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15 Our lives are a Christ-like fragrance rising up to God. But this fragrance is perceived differently by those who are being saved and by those who are perishing.  – 2 Cor. 2:15 NLT 

2 Cor. 2:14-16 NLT

In the first century, when a king or leader had conquered a new territory, he would bring the captives back to his country and parade them down “main street’.  This was to show his subjects how powerful he was and to receive their worship and praise.  It also reminded them of what could happen if they ever decided to be disloyal to the king.  These were unwilling captives. Paul is giving thanks to God that we are led in this triumphal procession as willing captives.  We are captives and bondservants because we have chosen Jesus as our Savior and King.  Now, it is time for each of us “to spread the aroma of the knowledge of Him everywhere”.  That Word will be good news to some because they will receive the Word with gladness of heart, accept Jesus and receive the gift of forgiveness and eternal life.  It will be a stench in the nostrils of those who refuse to accept our God as the only true and living God and Jesus as their Savior and King. That rejection will lead to death and eternal punishment.  Just as Paul felt inadequate to do that job, so should we. As he says, “who is equal to such a task?”  None of us can do this work alone, It must be Spirit-led and Spirit-fed.  As Paul also explains, “I can do all things through Jesus Christ”.  And so can we do all things through Jesus.  It is His plan, His purpose and it is accomplished by His power, not ours. We are to be faithful and follow His example.

1 Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children 2 and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. — Eph. 5:1 NIV

We are to offer our lives as a sacrifice and a fragrant offering to God. Just as bees are drawn to honey, others are drawn to Jesus by people who live sacrificial lives.
Do our lifestyles release a sweet smelling aroma of life or a stench of death?

“The Gospel has come to you because it’s on its way to someone else.” – Anonymous

“Reaffirm Your Love for Him”

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8 So I urge you now to reaffirm your love for him. – 2 Cor. 2:8

2 Cor. 2:5-11 NLT

It appears that someone in the church at Corinth had done something that was deserving of discipline by the church body. Whatever the action was, it had caused a great deal of grief in the church.  Paul is writing to tell them that the discipline has been sufficient and now it is time for the church to move on and let the healing begin.  The church now needs to restore that one to their fellowship and reaffirm their love for him or he could be completely overwhelmed. In every family, whether it be our church or our physical family, there are disagreements, some severe enough to be deserving of corrective action.  But once that action has been taken, it is time to restore and reaffirm our love for each other.

1 Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. — Galatians 6:1 NIV

The restoration is not a favor to the perpetrator, but a necessary step in the forgiving process that brings glory to God.  True forgiveness releases all anger and resentment against that person and allows us to enjoy the freedom we have in God’s forgiveness of our sins.  It also defeats satan’s schemes since it will keep us from allowing a root of bitterness to grow in us, which will steal our joy.

14 Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. 15 See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many– Hebrews 12:14-15 NIV

“The Gospel has come to you because it’s on its way to someone else.” – Anonymous

“Mighty Hero, the Lord Is With You”

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12 The angel of the Lord appeared to him and said, “Mighty hero, the Lord is with you!” – Judges 6:12

Judges 6:12-16 NLT

We serve a mighty God who is always surprising us by doing things a different way and with the most unlikely  people.  Most of those people say no when they first hear of God’s plan to use them. They have a few things they need help to overcome before they will actually accomplish what God has called them to do. Moses couldn’t talk, Jeremiah was too young and the list goes on and on.  And then of course, there is Jonah who just didn’t want to go to Nineveh because God was too merciful and would end up forgiving the Ninevites. When the Holy Spirit nudges us to do something for the Lord, what is our response?  Are we the not me, Lord, you got the wrong person type? Remember God formed us and He knows exactly what we are capable of, it isn’t so much that He needs us, it is more that He loves us and wants to have an opportunity to bless us.  He can only do that, if we are obedient to His requests.

“The Gospel has come to you because it’s on its way to someone else.” – Anonymous

“Follow Me”

22 But Jesus said to him, “Follow Me, and let the dead bury their own dead.” – Matt.8:22 NKJV

Matthew 8:18-22 NKJV

This response by Jesus seems harsh to us.  However, if we were a 1st century Jew, we would have understood what Jesus was saying to this disciple.   The disciple could have meant either that he wanted to stay home with his Father until he passed away which would have been an indefinite time or he could have meant that he wanted to be sure that his Father’s bones were transferred to an ossuary which was a common custom after the body had decomposed. But touching dead bones would have made him unclean, this was a job that he paid others to do and it would also have meant that his Father had been dead for a year or more.  Either way, the disciple is saying “No” to Jesus. How many different ways do we say “No” to Jesus when He says to us “Follow Me”?​​

15 So be careful how you live. Don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise.16 Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days. ​ – Eph. 5:15-16 NLT

“The Gospel has come to you because it’s on its way to someone else.” – Anonymous

“I Was Ashamed to Ask”

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22 For I was ashamed to ask the king for soldiers and horsemen to accompany us and protect us from enemies along the way. – Ezra 8:22A NLT 

Ezra 8:21-23 NLT

Ezra was a priest and a scribe who was in captivity in Babylon during the reign of King Artaxerxes of Persia.  Ezra had fasted and prayed and God had given Ezra great favor with the king.  So, when Ezra determined to go to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple the king not only allowed Ezra to go but gave him permission to take any Jews that would volunteer to go with him. The king also gave him great treasures totaling over 110 million in today’s market to take with him to help in rebuilding the temple. (Ezra 9:26-27)  Ezra had gathered the people by the Ahava Canal and they fasted and prayed for God to give them a safe journey to Jerusalem.  Ezra was ashamed to ask the king for soldiers to protect them because he had told the king “Our God’s hand of protection is on all who worship him”.  How many times do we ask God for something and He answers but then we decide we need a plan B just in case?  We should be like Ezra, we should be ashamed to ask the world to give us what our God has already promised to us that He is the author and the finisher of our faith, He has begun a good work in us and He will complete it.  When God gives us a mission, we need to fast and pray and then take the first step. Trust Him, He will provide.

“The Gospel has come to you because it’s on its way to someone else.” – Anonymous

“All of God’s Promises”

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20 For all of God’s promises have been fulfilled in Christ with a resounding “Yes!” And through Christ, our “Amen” (which means “Yes”) ascends to God for his glory. – 2 Cor. 1:19-22 NLT 

 1 Cor. 1:19-22 NLT

There are testimonies upon testimonies of God’s faithfulness, not just in the Bible, but in the lives of Christians since the first century until today.  I am constantly amazed when reading the personal testimonies of our brothers and sisters who are persecuted, imprisoned and questioned by the authorities on a daily basis.  They tell story after story of how God strengthens them and comes to their rescue.  We have all of these testimonies plus the stories of modern day miracles with which God still so richly blesses us.  Then, of course, each of us have our own stories of how God saved us from eternal punishment and condemnation, the miracle of resurrection power. We can look back over our own lives and see how the hand of God has delivered us from bad situations and even saved us from physical death. If we don’t see any, perhaps, we are looking for what we consider to be “big” things.  Every good thing that happens to us is a fulfillment of the promises of God. The fact that we are alive today is a gift from God.

16 Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters. 17 Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. — James 1:16-17 NIV

He has promised that He will never leave us nor forsake us and He has kept that promise. Because He put His Spirit in our hearts, we can never go anywhere without Him. We are constantly surrounded by angels who watch over us and protect us.

16 “Don’t be afraid,” the prophet answered. “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” 17 And Elisha prayed, “Open his eyes, Lord, so that he may see.” Then the Lord opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha. — 2 Kings 6:16, 17 NIV

We thank you, Lord, for your faithfulness and your mercies which are new every morning!

“The Gospel has come to you because it’s on its way to someone else.” – Anonymous

“A Son Is Given To Us”

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6 For a child is born to us,  a son is given to us.
The government will rest on his shoulders.
    And he will be called:
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.   – Isaiah 9:6 NLT

Isaiah 9:1-7 NLT

This prophecy was fulfilled in Luke 2 when the virgin Mary gave birth to the baby Jesus. God would keep His covenant with David that a member of David’s household would always occupy the throne of Israel. Jesus would not establish His earthly kingdom at that time, but it will be completely fulfilled when the new Jerusalem is established. It will be an eternal kingdom with Jesus as the last king. Jesus is the Prince of Peace, Mighty God, and the everlasting Father. We can celebrate the birth of Jesus because it is another assurance that God never fails to keep His covenants and His promises. He is an awesome, amazing God who holds us in the palm of His hand and we can never be separated from Him. He inhabits the praises of His people, so praise Him continually and “forget not all His benefits”.

“The Gospel has come to you because it’s on its way to someone else.” -Anonymous

“God Has Graciously Answered”

11 And you are helping us by praying for us. Then many people will give thanks because God has graciously answered so many prayers for our safety. – 2 Cor.1:11 NLT

2 Cor. 1:8-11 NLT

When we read these verses, we need to consider our brothers and sisters who live in places where persecution and imprisonment are still common practice today.  They need our prayers and our encouragement on a daily basis.  There are numerous testimonies from these Christians about being able to endure their harsh treatment because they received cards and/or knew that other Christians were praying for them daily.  They, as Paul, have learned to rely on God to deliver them from deadly perils.  Until recently we, in the free world, have not been subject to such unfair and brutal treatment.  That time has passed and we are being tested here in America, as well as other so called free countries. Christians are being ridiculed, beaten to death and imprisoned for refusing to deny their faith and their beliefs.  We need to pray and encourage each other daily.  Our hope is still in Jesus Christ.  He is our Redeemer, our Savior and our Lord. There is no other God that is capable of loving their followers and delivering them from every situation. We need to understand that sometimes that deliverance includes physical death. But we need to count it all joy and say along with Paul:

20 I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. 21 For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. — Phil. 1:20-21 NIV

“The Gospel has come to you because it’s on its way to someone else.” – Anonymous

“So That We Can Comfort Others”

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4 He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us. – 2 Cor. 1:4 NLT 

Comfort

​Everything that we have belongs to God. Whatever He has given to us is to be shared with those around us. The things with which God has blessed us should be held very loosely in our hands. They are to be used to bless others and further the work of the Kingdom here on earth. The early church understood and practiced this principle of giving and receiving. There are many verses that teach us to give to the poor, widows and orphans.  We must open ourselves up to be channels of blessings. This is also true in Spiritual things as well as natural.  In the Spiritual area, we don’t do quite as well in giving or receiving.  God has given us the Comforter to comfort us in all situations and we need to learn to share that message with a hurting world.  But, we also need to learn to accept that comfort when it is offered to us. Every one of us needs help in some area of our lives whether we want to admit it or not.  As long as we deny it, the pain and the chaos will not go away. None of us can fix ourselves, even though Satan would love for us to believe that we can. Reach out and touch someone was a Biblical principle long before it was a commercial.

“The Gospel has come to you because it’s on its way to someone else.” – Anonymous

“Delight in the Law of the Lord”

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1 Oh, the joys of those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or stand around with sinners, or join in with mockers.
2 But they delight in the law of the Lord, meditating on it day and night.
3 They are like trees planted along the riverbank, bearing fruit each season.  Their leaves never wither, and they prosper in all they do.– Psalm 1:1-3 NLT

There are thousands of books written in an attempt to make us feel better about ourselves. Do this and get rich, do this and influence people, do this and look better. Money, power and good looks do not come with bags of joy that can be opened at any time we need to feel good. All of these things are external and have nothing to do with the real problems of today.The changes we need are from the inside out. It isn’t our natural diet that makes us who we are, contrary to what we have been told, we are not what we eat. The diet that determines whether we will be full of peace and joy is our Spiritual diet. Be filled with the Holy Spirit! The third person of the Trinity really is a person. He abides inside us to give us all the peace, joy and hope we need or desire. He knows our every need and is waiting patiently to give it to each of us. He weeps with us and when our hearts are broken, so is His. He feels the pain that we feel and He wants to restore our joy and hope when we are down and out. We need to learn to praise God and tell others what He has done for us. While we are praising Him, we will find that our joy will start to flow out from us to those around us. Praise and pray! God hears the praises and the prayers. He will not reject our prayers or withdraw His love from us. Eat your fill of Spiritual food each day, it is non-fattening, fulfilling and it purges us, pushing out all the sadness, worry and fears. Start with a taste and soon you will find that it takes a lot of Spiritual goodness to keep you satisfied!

8 Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him. —​Psalm 34:8

 “The Gospel has come to you because it’s on its way to someone else.” – Anonymous